Urban One

Nearly five years after investing $40 million in MGM National Harbor casino resort in Maryland, Urban One is set to pour millions more into a second casino, this one in Richmond. On Tuesday (Feb. 23), the African American media specialist is expected to announce a proposed partnership with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment to operate a new casino as part of a $517 million, 300,000-square-foot complex in South Richmond that would also include a live music theater and multiple restaurants and lounges, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which cites a source close to the project.

Urban One would be the majority investor.

The Silver Spring-Maryland based company owns five radio stations in Richmond: adult R&B “Kiss FM” WKJS, the “ESPN Richmond” simulcast of WXGI (950) and WTPS (1240), hip-hop/R&B “iPower 92-104.1” WCDX, and gospel “Praise 104.7” WPZZ.

“Urban One is excited to be submitting a robust proposal to the City of Richmond to create an unparalleled gaming, dining, and live music destination that will attract tourists from all across the country and, if selected, be the only Black owned casino with diverse investors in the United States,” CEO Alfred Liggins said in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We have been a part of the Richmond community since 1999, and everything we are proposing will have a local flavor and will ensure our facility uplifts the entire Richmond community,” Liggins said.

The company has a 7% stake in MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s Country, MD. Last October Urban One said in a filing that the Maryland casino, which reopened June 29, “has been strong despite the mandatory reduced occupancy limits.

Located outside of Washington, DC on the banks of the Potomac River, MGM Grand first opened in December 2016. Urban One’s $40 million investment gave the media company 6.7% ownership in the casino and 1% of net gaming revenue. The investment brought in $9.9 million in its first seven quarters of operation, along with $1 million in ad revenue from MGM for five years.

Now Urban One is proposing to build a new gambling complex on 100 acres of land owned by the Altria Group, parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris. The Times-Dispatch says the complex would be located at the Bells Road exit on I-95, just south of the tobacco company’s cigarette manufacturing complex.

Its partner in the project, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, owns Colonial Downs Group and a growing chain of gaming emporiums in Virginia.

Financing for the project could come from an add-on stock offering. In early February, Urban One filed plans to raise as much as $25 million by selling shares “from time to time.” In a prospectus filed in August, Urban One said it would potentially use the proceeds of such sales for a variety of purposes including repaying debt, making an acquisition, or simply providing working capital to run the company.

Urban One will be competing with other proposals submitted to win the license being awarded as part of casino legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Richmond is accepting proposals from potential casino operators after a state law adopted in 2020 allows legal casino gambling in Virginia for the first time. But it’s being restricted to just five cities and only after approval by voters in local referendums. Richmond voters will weigh in on it in November.

Urban One could have an edge, since “minority ownership has been a major issue” in the bill adopted last year, per the Times-Dispatch.

Liggins told the publication last year that Urban One plans to submit a proposal that “will include a focus on diversity and inclusion, and creating economic opportunities for Black and other minorities in central Virginia.”